While Biden, White House aides, and Capitol Hill Democrats take away their original $3.5 trillion social welfare and climate spending package and try to discuss how to pay for the final proposal, they risk pushing away the young voters they wish the package will encourage before next year's midterm elections.
According to one strategic source, dropping the free community college program is "an unforced error" by Democrats.
"The youth vote was decisive for Democrats in 2020, including for Joe Biden," the person said. "We ran on making college more affordable and have to deliver on that. Young people and everyone struggling with crushing student loan debt are counting on us to take action. We have to get this done or risk them staying home in 2022."
According to a Quinnipiac University poll published this week, about a third of respondents support Biden's job as president, the lowest national survey approval number of his term so far. A majority opposed Biden, while 12% did not share their view. And he was found worse among people aged 18-34. Among that demographic, 3 in 10 approve of Biden, almost half oppose, and another fifth do not offer a clear vote.
For the Brookings Institution's Darrell West, whose research centers on the "future of work," young people will be "upset" since they are "the ones who need to upgrade their job skills to prepare for a 21st-century economy."
"It will be harder for them to gain needed skills if they have to pay the full tuition," he told the Washington Examiner.
Biden has promoted student debt clearance programs for teachers and healthcare providers but may not be able to help more groups since the social welfare, and climate package's cost has to be near $2 trillion to please Democratic centrist Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona in an evenly divided Senate, West said.
"There will be far fewer resources than thought a few months ago for education-related programs," he continued.
Young people who desire generational change were skeptical of Biden, then a 77-year-old third-time candidate, during the 2020 campaign. Many opposed Biden's performances over his immigration and climate record and now participate in protests outside the White House.
It was widely believed immigration would not be discussed in the social welfare and climate package. But Manchin rejecting Biden's main climate proposal, the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which would have paid utility companies to pivot to clean energy, along with nixing free community college, will affirm young liberals' concerns about the administration.